Home » Shitbox Showdown: Oddball Holden Ute Versus Turbo Birdo (Special Aussie Edition)

Shitbox Showdown: Oddball Holden Ute Versus Turbo Birdo (Special Aussie Edition)

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G’day again Autopians! Mark was having internet problems so I have stepped up to give you a Down Under Edition of Shitbox Showdown. Hopefully you’re not saying to yourself “oh no, not you again.Looking at yesterday’s Basket-handle convertible challenge, the VW was far and away the winner of the showdown with more than two-thirds of you going for the three-pedal German versus the self-shifting American:

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Vidframe Min Top
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Thomas gave us some Aussie nuggets to decide between back in December ( ) as part of a global Showdown theme, so I’m going to give you some more prime cuts of Aussie nugget-dom. I’ve tried to pick two vehicles that aren’t absolute dungers, at a price point that would be tempting enough for those of you willing to import something to draw a crowd at your local Cars & Coffee.

 

1996 Holden Commodore ‘VS’ S Ute Long Wheelbase – $6,000 AUD

 

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Commodoretruck1

Engine/Drivetrain: 3.8-litre pushrod V6, 4-speed Automatic, RWD

Location: Pallara, Queensland

Odometer: 210,000km (130,000 miles)

Runs/Drives: Yes, allegedly rebuilt engine and transmission to boot!

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What you’re seeing here is not a Photoshop –  this ute has been extended by 23.6 inches!

The ‘VS’ Series Holdens were made from 1995 to 1997 in Sedan and Wagon form, but continued in Utility (‘Ute’) until 2000. This was the final refresh of the second-generation Commodore, tracing back to the ‘VN’ series of 1988 which replaced my favourite Commodore, the ‘VL’ series

These Utes were converted in Australia’s country-music capital, Tamworth (home of the Golden Guitar!) by the now-defunct Jakab Industries to be ambulances. Here’s a video of a still-complete Rural Ambulance Victoria model.

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The idea behind the use of a ute body as reported via Curbside Classic was that the ambulance compartment was installed as a ‘pod’ and could be removed after service to be swapped to the next ute body to cut down on costs for the emergency services departments. The used vehicle could then be sold to tradies which it was hoped would pay extra for the greater load space over a standard ute. [Editor’s Note: That’s kind of brilliant! – JT]

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Powered by the long-lived 3.8L ‘Ecotec’ V6 and shifting gears through a 4L60E automatic should mean that parts wouldn’t be too much of a worry if the vehicle made its way over Stateside. A great way to get a 90s GM ute without hacking up a mouldy Buick (love ya, SWG)!

The extended-length means the load floor goes from 1790mm (70.47in) in a standard-wheelbase version with tailgate closed to a monstrous 2389mm (94in)! You could flex on all the rival dads at the hardware store as you drive away with uncut lengths of timber or transport all kinds of weird and wonderful objects from upright pianos to church pews or a bulk-delivery of Reschs, no worries!

All this could be yours for the princely sum of $3,986 US Dollars.

 

1995 Ford Falcon ‘EF’ GLi Sedan – $7,000AUD

 

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Engine/Drivetrain: 4.0-Litre OHC Inline-Six, 5-speed Manual, RWD

Location: Beechworth, Victoria

Odometer: 390,000km (242,000 miles)

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Runs/Drives: Yes, though it apparently needs work

 

I was hoping to find something that wasn’t a Ford Falcon to counter the Holden Commodore, but nothing was forthcoming that was in the same price range or had sufficient information/photos to give a fair fight.

The EF Falcon was a significant refresh of the boxier EB, a sleeker skin to match the VR Commodore which looks nearly identical to the VS model of the ute above. With only the doors carrying over from the previous model, this generation looked like it had cast off the 1980s rectilinear shapes and entered the 90s proper.

Whilst the shape was successful in racing with the exception of the Bathurst 1000, this is not powered by the venerable 5.0L ‘Windsor’ V8, but by a multi-point fuel-injected single-overhead-cam 4.0L inline-six, an also well-loved engine with a reputation for durability and a favourite of taxi drivers during the period.

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The first factory-turbocharged Falcons were released in the ‘BA’ Falcon range in 2002 with the now-legendary ‘Barra’ double-overhead-cam inline-six, there were several aftermarket tuners that released kits and completed cars in the 80s and 90s to add forced induction via turbos or the even more unique twin-screw-supercharged version released in extremely limited numbers by GP Sportscars.

This Falcon looks to have copped a home-brewed turbo kit, of which the overall quality appears good based on the limited photos. The seller confesses that there has been no tuning performed (which would mean a ‘chip’ to the original ECU) nor is there an aftermarket ECU such as a Haltech or Link installed. Hopefully with just 5psi on tap there hasn’t been too many hard runs and the Autometer Air/Fuel gauge means there was some care taken to not melt pistons due to leaning-out.

While ‘Car needs work’ is about the most vague statement outside of a political press-conference, let’s hope that phrase isn’t hinting at anything too sinister.

Putting this unknown amount of extra power through the original ‘T5’ manual gearbox and Borg-Warner differential shouldn’t be too much cause for stress as these items are known for being quite stout and up to quite some punishment.

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Priced a bit higher than our long-boy Lion at $4,656 USD, it could be a way to get a boosted Falcon on a budget.  Get some dyno tuning done, throw another 4.0L engine and common wear parts into the boot before putting in a ship across the Pacific and like the Holden it should last a while before needing a substantial overhaul. 

So Autopians, what will it be? Take the XL Commodore, or roll the dice on a boosted-bird?

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Brooks Fancher
Brooks Fancher
11 months ago

You had me at Ute!

While I think the Falcon Utes are overall more attractive, just as I think that the Ranchero here in the states was better looking than the El Camino, that is one cool Ute.

I am curious what that cutout in the bed is for. That would be cool if it was a storage chamber that you could throw straps and such in to keep them out of the way and out of the cab.

I love that long bed and if I had the extra cash, that one is old enough to be imported into the US, but that $4000 US price tag would wind up being quite a bit more once you get it shipped and through customs.

Alas… I do not have the cash.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
11 months ago

The Falcon is much more attractive but the bad mods and extra mileage scare the snot out of me. Meanwhile, the long ute is so crazy that it’s fun just in itself. Holden it is.

Ricki
Ricki
11 months ago

Falcon has great hoon potential, and I like the body lines a lot. The Holden is, of course, a functional vehicle, but I tend to look at these things as “what would I have more fun with?” and the answer there is pretty definitely the Falcon. I mean, once I was done making sure the turbo wouldn’t explode and the engine was running correctly. So, caveats, sure. But hooning, you guys!

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
11 months ago
Reply to  Ricki

Open your mind that long length has all kinds of potential.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
11 months ago

You’re gonna make me choose between extra long weirdness and 3/4 finished stickshift project?

I’m gonna be here all frikkin’ day…

AC2DE
AC2DE
11 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

We really need a “Why not both?” choice.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
11 months ago

that ute is a bit toooooooooooo looooooong

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
11 months ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

naaaaaaaaaaaah it’s perfect!

M0L0TOV
M0L0TOV
11 months ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

Long Ute is looooooong.

Six Inna Row Makes it Go
Six Inna Row Makes it Go
11 months ago

Despite my user name, I pick the ute. I have a long pad on the side of my house that would fit it fine. It would also be an awesome addition to the local hearse club (of which some members also drive old ambulances.)

XLEJim700
XLEJim700
11 months ago

I’ll take the bird.

“Sometimes fallin’ feels like flyin’ “

JurassicComanche25
JurassicComanche25
11 months ago

Ute wins it for.me.

How much would it cost to get to the US? And would a series II supercharged engine swap in? Hmm

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
11 months ago

We did have the L67 supercharged 3800 V6 as an option in Commodores from 1996 until 2004 so that will fit no worries at all!

Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
11 months ago

I voted for the Ute. I’m not sure I would actually buy a Ute if they were ever sold here, but I still think they are cool vehicles. This particular Ute looks to be in good condition and the long wheelbase makes it unique and interesting. It is well worth $4,000.

My only concern is the long wheelbase relative to ride height. It looks like you could get high centered driving over an ant hill. What does it look like when loaded up with a few hundred pounds of stuff? I presume this isn’t actually a concern since they were used as ambulances (I’m not aware of an epidemic of Aussies dying in ambulances stuck at railroad crossings), but it looks like it should be a problem.

Rusty S Trusty
Rusty S Trusty
11 months ago

That ute is so much better than an American pickup. Not only does it hold a lot more volume in the bed but you also don’t need to stop and deploy a staircase to reach into it.

STEPHEN WALTER GOSSIN
STEPHEN WALTER GOSSIN
11 months ago

Fantastic Showdown, mate!
Thanks for including the El Parkamino Avenuero as well. The sawzall is ready to be fired up this fall.
It’s the ute for this guy.
Cheers and have a great weekend, bud!

Last edited 11 months ago by STEPHEN WALTER GOSSIN
Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
11 months ago

I wanted to vote for the Ute, but 94″ is 2″ too short to haul uncut 2×4’s or sheet goods, so you may was well have the better looking short box if you’re still going to have to drop the tailgate. Plus, retired ambulance? HARD PASS! Those things geat beat to absolute death.

The Falcon is a wild gamble, but at least it’s a much cooler vehicle when you’re done fixing it.

Brandon Forbes
Brandon Forbes
11 months ago

I like the Falcon better, but not with a poorly done (no tune or ECU) turbo kit and the ominous and expensive sounding “needs work.” So Ute it is for me! Plus, they are just awesome, and having a long bed would be fun. Plus, I love the 3800 and it’s going to be a hell of a lot easier to get parts for.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
11 months ago

That Ute would not be able to make it up my driveway without high centering, so easy choice.

With that settled, I’d just drive the snot out of the Falcon as it is until the home-brew turbo-6 goes cactus. If five-0s fit in the engine bay, then it should be an easy swap with a junkyard Fox-body.

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
11 months ago

Thanks again, Laurence! And thank you to [internet service provider] for plunging my entire neighborhood into the late 20th century for several hours las night. C’mon guys, you have ONE JOB…

Anyway, I’m on Team Falcon for this one. I already have a truck, and a 3800 with an automatic, while durable, is about as exciting as plain oatmeal. And it would be fun to tell car guys in the US that “I have a six-cylinder Falcon” and then show up in that.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
11 months ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

You’re welcome, Mark!

Glad you enjoyed the showdown, as we all thoroughly enjoy your match ups each and every weekday!

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
11 months ago

Yes! We all do…this is my favorite part of Autopian! Thank you

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
11 months ago

As I understand it, there is a time honored tradition in the land down under of hooning. I’m channeling my inter convict descendant. I have become Outback ESBMW, just getting off my job as a tradie in a suburb of Brisbane. Having a Ute that could fit half The Lion starting line up would be convenient, for my hammers and shit. But minimal hoon potential, maybe a 6/10 on the hoonameter. How am I to pick up a birdie outside the Hunger Jacks without a good hoon! Mate, look for the tire smoke from Brisbane to the Gold Coast, I’m about to do the hoon so impressive Stephan Harper will have a press conference about my new to me Falcon. 9/10 on the hoonameter.

CSRoad
CSRoad
11 months ago

I vote for UTE for the utility of it all.
Haul a bike, lumber ‘n’ stuff all while turning heads due to the strangeness.

Dar Khorse
Dar Khorse
11 months ago

I’d have voted for the Falcon if it weren’t for the home-brew turbo. But that LUTE is pretty sweet and the 3800 is a smooth operator. Maybe I could add a small hot tub to the back and rent it out as a Hot Tub Cruise Machine?

Brandon Forbes
Brandon Forbes
11 months ago
Reply to  Dar Khorse

Same. A stock car would have likely won, but I don’t trust that mess.

Data
Data
11 months ago

Wedge Antilles: Look at the size of that thing.
Red Leader: Cut the chatter, Red 2.

I’m going for the Ford, it looks decent and different. The ute wouldn’t fit in my garage. It’s a shame they’re both white. Already to many blandmobiles on the roads today.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
11 months ago

As someone who drives a 3800 every day, yup.

ExAutoJourno
ExAutoJourno
11 months ago

Though it makes all kinds of sense to go for the Ute, I’m choosing the Falcon. My local Ford dealer wouldn’t be able to get me any parts after I lunched a piston or two, but what the heck….

The only reason is the first photo of the Holden made me think “if it was painted black, it’d be a flower car.” Or, if you could get the ambulance shell, it’d be easy to convert to a hearse.

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
11 months ago
Reply to  ExAutoJourno

I too am team Bad Decisions Falcon.

Cyko9
Cyko9
11 months ago
Reply to  ExAutoJourno

That’s why I chose the ute. Primer, then flat black & prop a coffin in the back. It’d be the king of every trunk-or-treat!

World24
World24
11 months ago

You had me right at 3800.

Jason Roth
Jason Roth
11 months ago

Even aside from the dubious mechanicals, I just can’t with the beady little headlights on the Ford. Looks like a terrible aftermarket mod.

Meanwhile, that ute would draw eyes from literally everybody you passed. Wow.

Alec Harvey
Alec Harvey
11 months ago
Reply to  Jason Roth

Its an EL XR6/8 frontend that he has replaced the original front with. The Standard EF Gli frontend looked better IMO.

10001010
10001010
11 months ago

I’ll have the uuuuuuuute over the grotty falcon.

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
11 months ago

I will take the UTE vs Someone else’s Project.

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